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Interview with “Advice from a Loving Bitch” creator Rythea Lee on Healing Trauma from Childhood Sexual Abuse

By: STP Co-Director, Leila Zainab

As a survivor, I often scour the internet looking for articles that resonate with my unique experiences of violence, internalized shame and guilt, and healing. Of all the various types of abuses, resources on sexual abuse are some of the hardest to come by because of societal shame associated with exposing family and intimate partner violence. When I learned that survivor activist, and long-time Survivor Theatre Project member, Rythea Lee created a video series about self-hatred and trauma, I started watching immediately. 

Rythea Lee is a previous Survivor Theatre Performance Project director, artist, performer and dancer. She has spent the last 20 years of her life as a therapist working with survivors of trauma and using the arts as a mode for healing. Rythea is the author of “Trauma Into Truth,” a poetic and practical book about the journey of personal healing through trauma. I spent some time talking with Rythea about her new video series entitled “Advice From a Loving Bitch” and what brings her to care deeply about healing from childhood trauma.

Rythea’s video series isn’t necessarily intended for a survivor audience; it is most helpful for people who are looking for validation and healing from self-hatred, internalized anger, and shame. But so often, survivors of sexual violence deal with self-hatred because we see ourselves as responsible for the trauma we’ve endured. In conversation with Rythea, she explained to me that she made these videos because “somewhere deep down in most of us, there is a voice that hates ourselves,” and she wanted to put that voice out there for folks to acknowledge how debilitating it can be.

The best part about Rythea’s videos is how hysterically funny it is to see her step into her self-hating voice. What makes her message so accessible is how she weaves humor with deep, heart-wrenching truths about the power of hateful self-talk. Rythea makes talking about these painful issues relatable so that we can start to laugh at our voices of self-sabotage rather than judge it or push it away.

Rythea’s videos encourage personal exploration around our individual layers of self-hatred & self-criticism, anger, denial, childhood abuse, and offers us new ways of harnessing joy, self-love and creativity to move through the trauma into a place of healing and wholeness. 

Episode 19: “Three Women Rising” features Rythea and two other phenomenal survivor activists, Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Donna Jenson, who speak to their own personal journeys with healing and ending child sexual abuse. Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a self defined Black feminist lesbian, incest and rape survivor, award-winning documentary filmmaker & creator of “No! The Rape Documentary,” and visionary behind the social media campaign #LoveWITHAccountability. Donna Jenson is a survivor, artist activist, author, and performer. She is the creator of the one-woman-show “What She Knows: One Woman’s Way from Incest to Love” and author of upcoming book, “Healing My Life from Incest to Joy.”

What is most striking about this episode is the rawness of each activist as she explains her courageous experience facing familial childhood sexual abuse, spending her adulthood working to create artwork that explores trauma, and finding healing through it all. It is radically powerful to see survivors speak their lived experience of resilience in such a profoundly honest and inspiring way. Not only are these survivors speaking out against child sexual abuse; they are pioneers in their fields, paving a path for transformational healing from childhood trauma as activists and educators. They use their stories to model how healing can look, how it can pave the way for a life of love and action.

Childhood sexual abuse is a topic that is so severely silenced, denied, and largely unexplored as a societal epidemic. In Episode 19, Aishah Shahidah Simmons says it best: “I am unequivocal in my belief that the deep denial of child sexual abuse and incest is entrenched and deeply connected to protecting the family. All of us are taught from birth that we must protect the family at all costs. Unfortunately, what that usually means is protecting the harm-doer, perpetrator, and bystander.” Because we are taught from a young age to protect our families and other trusted adults, we as survivors do not speak out against the abuse we have experienced. It can be a hugely risky task, possibly resulting in further abuse or abandonment from the family. So, instead, we stay silent as loyalty to our families.

When I asked Rythea what she might say to a survivor who wants to “come out,” she offered this piece of loving advice: “Start with one safe person who can offer you loving support, who believes you, and validates you. This doesn’t have to be a therapist, it can even be a friend. Alice Miller calls it “The Enlightened Witness.”

If you are looking for a truly transformative resource to tackle your self-hatred, your trauma, and what holds you back from accessing your big joy, check out Rythea Lee’s video series entitled “Advice From a Loving Bitch with Rythea Lee.”

Watch here:

Check out Rythea Lee’s website:

Rythea Lee on Instagram: @RytheaLee


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